MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case involves the interpretation and application of the "Wunderlich Act," 68 Stat. 81, 41 U. S. C. §§ 321-322,
In 1946, the respondent, Carlo Bianchi and Company, entered into a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of a flood-control dam. Included in the work to be performed was the construction of a 710-foot tunnel, designed for the diversion of water, to be lined with concrete and to have permanent steel supports as protection for a 50-foot section at either end. The specifications did not call for such permanent supports throughout the remainder of the tunnel but only for "[t]emporary tunnel protection . . . where required for safety of the workmen." The contract contained a standard "changed conditions" clause, authorizing the contracting officer to provide for an increase in cost if the contractor encountered subsurface conditions materially different from those indicated in the contract or to be reasonably
After the tunnel had been drilled by a subcontractor, but before it was lined with concrete, the respondent took the position that unforeseen conditions created extreme hazards for workmen, requiring permanent protection throughout the tunnel, and that it should be compensated for installing such protection. The contracting officer decided that compensation would not be made, and pursuant to the "disputes" clause a timely appeal from his decision was taken to the Board of Claims and Appeals of the Corps of Engineers. While the appeal was pending, respondent installed the tunnel supports and completed work on the tunnel.
An adversary hearing was held before the Board, at which a record was made and each side offered its evidence and had an opportunity for cross-examination. In December 1948, the Board issued a decision against the contractor, resolving certain conflicts in the evidence in favor of the Government and holding in substance that there were no unanticipated or unforeseen conditions requiring the use of permanent steel protection throughout the tunnel.
Almost six years later, in December 1954, respondent brought the present action for breach of contract in the Court of Claims, seeking substantial damages and alleging that the decisions of the contracting officer and the Board were "capricious or arbitrary or so grossly erroneous as necessarily to imply bad faith, or were not supported by substantial evidence." At a hearing before a Commissioner in 1956, the Government took the position that on the question whether the Board's decision was entitled to be considered final, no evidence was admissible except the record before the Board. But the Commissioner received evidence de novo, including, over government objection, a substantial amount of evidence that had not
In an opinion issued in January 1959, the Court of Claims accepted the Commissioner's findings and conclusions, ruling that "on consideration of all the evidence, the contracting officer's decision [as affirmed by the Board] cannot be said to have substantial support," and thus "does not have finality." 144 Ct. Cl. 500, 506, 169 F.Supp. 514, 517. On the question whether it was limited in its consideration to the evidence before the Board, the court stated:
After receiving additional evidence on damages, the court entered judgment for respondent in the amount of $149,617.36. 157 Ct. Cl. ___. We granted certiorari, 371 U.S. 939, to resolve a conflict among the lower courts
The jurisdiction of the Court of Claims in the present case is conferred by 28 U. S. C. § 1491, since this is a suit for judgment against the United States "founded" upon an "express or implied contract with the United States." Ordinarily, when questions of fact arise in such suits, the function of the court is to receive evidence and to make appropriate findings as to the facts in dispute. But this Court long ago upheld the validity of clauses in government contracts delegating to a government employee the authority to make determinations of disputed questions of fact, and required such determinations to be given conclusive effect in any subsequent suit in the absence of fraud or gross mistake implying fraud or bad faith. See Kihlberg v. United States, 97 U.S. 398; Ripley v. United States, 223 U.S. 695. Thus the function of the Court of Claims in matters governed by "disputes" clauses was in effect to give an extremely limited review of the administrative decision, and although the scope of review was somewhat expanded by that court over the years.
The Wunderlich decision, rendered over strong dissents, evoked considerable effort to obtain legislation expanding the scope of review beyond questions of fraud. A number of bills were introduced in the Eighty-second and Eighty-third Congresses; hearings were held in the Senate
Respondent has not argued in this Court that the underlying controversy in the present suit is beyond the scope of the "disputes" clause in the contract or that it is not governed by the quoted language in the Wunderlich Act. Thus the sole issue, as stated supra, p. 710, is whether the Court of Claims is limited to the administrative record with respect to that controversy or is free to take new evidence. In considering this issue, we put to one side questions of fraud, which are not involved in this case, which normally require the receipt of evidence outside the administrative record for their resolution, and which could be considered in judicial proceedings even prior to the enactment of the statute.
It is our conclusion that, apart from questions of fraud, determination of the finality to be attached to a departmental decision on a question arising under a "disputes" clause must rest solely on consideration of the record before the department. This conclusion is based both on the language of the statute and on its legislative history.
1. With respect to the language used, we note that the statute is designated as an Act "To permit review" and that the reviewing function is one ordinarily limited to consideration of the decision of the agency or court below
Moreover, the standards of review adopted in the Wunderlich Act—"arbitrary," "capricious," and "not supported by substantial evidence"—have frequently been used by Congress and have consistently been associated with a review limited to the administrative record.
2. The legislative history supports our conclusion that the language used in the Act should be given its customary meaning. It is true that several witnesses representing contractors explained the purpose of the proposed legislation as restoring rights the contractors had before Wunderlich,
The House Report recommending the bill ultimately enacted leaves little doubt that the review intended was one confined to the administrative record. H. R. Rep. No. 1380, 83d Cong., 2d Sess. The explicit references to the Administrative Procedure Act, 60 Stat. 243, 5 U. S. C. § 1009, and to this Court's discussion of the standards of review in Consolidated Edison Co. v. Labor Board, 305 U.S. 197, 229, are only the least indications. Even more significant is the Committee's view, echoing that of the witness quoted above, that the standards proposed would remedy the practice in many departments of failing to acquaint the contractor with the evidence in support of the Government's position:
This sound and clearly expressed purpose would be frustrated if either side were free to withhold evidence at the administrative level and then to introduce it in a judicial proceeding. Moreover, the consequence of such a procedure would in many instances be a needless duplication of evidentiary hearings and a heavy additional burden in the time and expense required to bring litigation to an end. Thus in the present case judicial proceedings began in 1954, almost six years after completion of the departmental proceedings, and a final decision on the issue of liability was not rendered until 1959. This is surely delay at its worst, and we would be loath to condone any procedure under which the need for expeditious resolution would be so ill-served. Here the procedure is clearly inconsistent with the legislative directive.
It is contended that the Court of Claims has no power to remand a case such as this to the department concerned, cf. United States v. Jones, 336 U.S. 641, 670-671, and thus if the administrative record is defective or inadequate, or reveals the commission of some prejudicial error, the court can only hold an evidentiary hearing and proceed to judgment. There are, we believe, two answers to this contention. First, there would undoubtedly be situations in which the court would be warranted, on the basis of the administrative record, in granting judgment for the contractor without the need for further administrative action. Second, in situations where the court
In its argument here, the Government has urged that if judicial review is confined to the administrative record, it must be concluded that the Board's determination is supported by substantial evidence and thus is entitled to finality under the Wunderlich Act. The respondent, on the other hand, contends that there were several irregularities in the Board's procedures that preclude giving its determination conclusive effect.
Neither of these matters is properly embraced within our grant of certiorari, and we are therefore not called upon to pass on them. We hold only that in its consideration of matters within the scope of the "disputes" clause in the present case, the Court of Claims is confined to review of the administrative record under the standards in the Wunderlich Act and may not receive new evidence. We therefore vacate the judgment below and remand the case for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
The petition to the Court of Claims alleged that changed subsurface conditions required respondent to install permanent tunnel protection by the use of steel arch ribs and steel liner plates, that that work delayed completion of the project and increased its cost, for which respondent should be reimbursed, and that the decision of the Corps of Engineers in rejecting the claim was "capricious" or "arbitrary."
The Wunderlich Act, 41 U. S. C. § 321, makes "final and conclusive" any decision by a federal agency under customary disputes clauses in government contracts with several exceptions—"unless the same is fraudulent or capricious or arbitrary or so grossly erroneous as necessarily to imply bad faith, or is not supported by substantial evidence."
I think the decision was "capricious or arbitrary" because evidence was considered by the Appeals Board in making its decision which the claimant did not see and which he had no opportunity to refute. I therefore think that a de novo hearing was permissible before the Court of Claims.
The Board found that respondent at the start should have used temporary protection against fall-ins and that, had it done so, permanent tunnel protection would not have been required. In February 1948, before the hearing, a letter from the Acting District Engineer to the Chief of Engineers reported a conversation the Corps' resident engineer for this project had had with an expert from New York's Bureau of Mines. The only inference that could be drawn from that report was that the expert believed that the tunnel was in safe condition shortly after it was bored and that its later unsafe condition was caused by the fact that respondent "had not had the foresight
After the decision respondent learned of this expert's alleged statements and called him as a witness at the hearing before the Court of Claims, where he testified on the basis of his inspection that permanent, not temporary, protection against fall-ins was necessary from the beginning. As respects the guniting of the tunnel, one of the Government's own witnesses testified at the hearing before the Court of Claims that it would have served no useful purpose.
This issue—whether only temporary protection was needed—was one of the main issues in the case. When the agency making the decision relies on evidence that the claimant has no chance to refute, the hearing becomes infected with a procedure that lacks that fundamental fairness the citizen expects from his Government. Cf. Willner v. Committee on Character & Fitness, ante, p. 96; Gonzales v. United States, 348 U.S. 407; Morgan v. United States, 304 U.S. 1.
This irregularity points up what Judge Madden, writing for the Court of Claims, said in Volentine & Littleton v. United States, 136 Ct. Cl. 638, 641-642, 145 F.Supp. 952, 954:
We are dealing, in other words, with subnormal administrative procedures. While the regulations governing hearings before the Corps of Engineers are published and provide many protective features (33 CFR § 210.4), they lack some of the safeguards normally accorded claimants in administrative proceedings. Thus they are specifically exempt from § 5 and from § 7 of the Administrative Procedure Act. 5 U. S. C. §§ 1004, 1006. The exemption from § 7 is highlighted in this case. That section provides in part:
That provision, if applicable, would have made reliance by the Board on the ex parte hearsay statement of this outside expert reversible error. Lax procedural standards may at times do no harm. But where, as here, opinion evidence on the vital issue in the case was obtained ex parte and where that evidence is shown to have been false, the conclusion that the decision was "capricious" or "arbitrary" seems to me unavoidable.
41 U. S. C. § 322 provides: "No Government contract shall contain a provision making final on a question of law the decision of any administrative official, representative, or board."